Row over union advice on World Cup "sickies"

24-08-2006

Business groups have condemned a trade union campaign which allegedly advises workers on how to take "sickies" from work to watch the World Cup.

The advice, published on the website of Amicus, one of Britain's largest unions, claims that "it is quite difficult to prove someone is not really sick if they have one day off".

It also provides workers with tips of how to defend themselves if they are caught out taking unauthorised leave.

Under the title "World Cup Fever", the guide asks: "So you want to watch the World Cup but are meant to be at work when it’s on: can you play away or is the risk of permanent relegation from your job too high?"

The advice urges employees to persuade their bosses to give them time off for matches by convincing them that watching the games in the office with other staff would present a "great team building" opportunity.

But under the heading "Just take a 'sickie'?" the union gives workers advice on how to minimise the consequences if they take an unauthorised absence after failing to secure the time off.

While stressing that taking time off work without permission can lead to dismissal for gross misconduct, the Amicus website points out that if a company's absence procedures do not make the punishment clear, employees can claim that their behaviour is "simply a form of misconduct" which should be viewed in light of their work record.

The online advice also warns football fans that their employers are more likely to notice a pattern in their sick days if absences coincide with match days.

Amicus stresses that it does not condone dishonest sick leave and said the guide was intended only to warn workers about the implications of taking unauthorised leave.

But the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that it was unfair for some staff to take unauthorised absences while their colleagues remained at work.

"It's not really fair to take a sickie for your employer or for your colleagues," the employers' group said.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it was "appalled" that a major trade union was offering advice on how best to "throw a sickie" and urged Amicus to withdraw the guide.


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